The Artichoke Connection


I went to the grocery store yesterday. You know, typical Saturday morning of running errands. Stopped at the bank, went into the liquor store for some supplies. Made a stop at our local cannabis dispensary.

Then I went to grab a few groceries for the week. I didn’t need a lot. Mostly milk, juice, veggies and fruits. I was moving slowly through the produce section, caught in the realization that we in New England are definitely “between seasons.” The apples are a little mealy, but the peaches are still as hard as stone. We crave fresh lettuce, but it’s still the hot house, shipped in from the far south variety.

My mouth wanted something interesting. Something that could serve as a bridge between roasted root vegetables and fresh spring salad.

I saw a lovely pile of artichokes. They were arranged artfully, like a pile of happy puppies, sleeping in the sun. They made me think of Italy. Of summer. Of my childhood dinners at Nana’s house.

So I took two. Paul doesn’t like them, so I knew two would be plenty. I put them into my cart and moved on, thinking about how I’d prepare them and what I’d serve with them.

A man stepped up as I was pushing my cart toward the piles of hot house tomatoes. He was very tall, almost seeming to loom over me. At first I was startled.

Then he smiled. The lines that bracketed his mouth were lines of hard work and hard laughter. His eyes were very dark. He shook his head as he looked at me.

“Artichokes!” he said, in a deep, soft voice. “Wow. Artichokes.”

“Yes,” I answered with a smile. “I love them.”

The man leaned on the handle of his carriage. His eyes were shining as he spoke, almost reverently, “I haven’t had an artichoke in at least 30 years. I haven’t even thought about artichokes!”

I smiled. I wasn’t really sure how to respond. I mean, I like artichokes. I make them on a fairly regular basis. I glanced at the piles of tomatoes, wondering what to say next.

“My Nonna used to make them,” the man explained. He reached one big rough hand out and lifted the bristly vegetable from my cart. “She used to stuff them with bread crumbs….”

“…..Sure! and Italian cheese!” I answered.

“And garlic and salt! And she steamed them.”

“For a long time, ” I added.

“Until the leaves pulled out easily.”

We grinned at each other, two old Italian Americans, thinking of our grandmothers and how they cooked and how that food made us feel.

“Wow.” he said again. “Artichokes.” He smiled at me again, right into my eyes and right into my Italian woman’s heart. “Thank you for this lovely memory.”

I felt a tug in my heart. I have no idea who he is, no idea where he lives or what his story is. But he touched me that morning at PriceChopper.

“Well,” I said. “Come over later. I’ll make you an artichoke!”

He laughed and we walked away, he into the bakery, me off to check the tomatoes.

When I got home it occurred to me that I had no idea what that man’s political views might be. I don’t know what he thinks of tariffs or global warming or the Green New Deal. I don’t know if he is afraid of immigrants or if he carries a gun. He might be one of my fellow Bernie folks, or he might have a MAGA hat in his car.

I don’t know.

But what I was thinking was that it doesn’t matter.

We were total strangers who will probably never meet again. But we shared a moment of nostalgia and a moment of joy and a moment of connection. All because we both had grandmothers who liked to make artichokes.

Yum.

Loops of Time


Sometimes it just comes back around and smacks me right in the head. Sometimes I think I’m perfectly balanced and no longer feeling the pangs of the old empty nest.

Then it just jumps up, grabs me by the throat and shakes me like a wolf taking down a limp old rabbit.

I still miss my kids. I still miss my Mommy days.

The other day we were down in our basement playroom. There are a bunch of old toys down there. Old games, old books, some aging camping equipment. And a few old photos.

My Ellie reached out to one of those photos and asked, “Who is that boy? Is he my cousin?”

“Who is that boy?”

My heart stopped, took a deep breath, started itself back up again.

“That’s your Uncle Matt.” I told my granddaughter. “That’s what he looked like when he was…..(your age? My little one? My sweet tiny boy?)….when he was about 4.”

And I held that frame in my hand.

I could hear his laugh. I could feel the warm sun on my shoulders. I could feel, as if it was right there under my palms, the smooth soft texture of his back. His golden silky hair.

He was my boy. My baby.

My eyes filled with tears.

I know. I know that my boy is not gone, although in the ways that matter to my Mommy heart, he is.

My beautiful golden haired boy is still here. Still a huge part of my life. Still in my heart and my thoughts every day. He is happy, grown, in love, loving and fulfilled.

I couldn’t have wished for anything more.

Except that in that tiny moment, when Ellie asked me about the smiling boy in the photo, I wanted THAT little boy back. Just for a minute. Just for a heartbeat.

That little boy who loved me so and who smiled with just joy as he played with a ball on a hot summer day.

We all move forward, every single day. We look to the future with love and hope. We grow, we learn, we continue to become the people we hope will be our best selves.

But every once in a while, time simply loops itself back and we are face to face with the moments that have passed us by.

I love my current life. I love the idea of my future.

But oh, how I’d love another chance to cuddle that sweet boy.

I’m No Bodyguard…..


Princess Poppy, Our Favorite Troll

It occurred to me today that if you are ever in a dangerous situation, I am the LAST person on earth you want on your team.

I would be no help at all in a crisis.

Here’s how I know.

Today was the first warmish day we’ve had in weeks. The snowpack was getting all mushy and melty, and the kids wanted to go outside to play. Naturally, I agreed. I got both of my grandkids into boots and extra pairs of pants. They put on jackets and hats, and I pulled on my warm sweatshirt. Out we went.

The kids were, of course, immediately drawn to the puddles. They wanted to wade, jump, splash in every wet spot they could find. Our driveway is long and shady, so the best puddles and icy streams running were out in the street.

Now you should know that we live on a very rural road. There are probably 10 cars coming slowly by on any day between 9 and 5. The mail truck comes, and sometimes there’s a delivery. But it’s not exactly a major thoroughfare, if you know what I mean.

Still, I am Nonni. The kids played in the puddles and dropped leaves and sticks into the roadside streams. I stood in the middle of the street, my head swinging endlessly back and forth, searching for danger.

I was on hyper alert. My eyes were actually aching from peering around me constantly. I scanned for cars, of course, but I was also keeping a look-out for bears (who have been seen in our yard once in 28 years), for coyotes (who sometimes wander through the back woods) and for our local bobcat (who I have never, ever, ever seen). I was wary of strangers, wary of branches breaking off in the gentle breeze and falling on our heads, wary of stray acorns falling.

I am a nut.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now. I am a NUT.

I was so tense for the hour that we were outside enjoying the lovely sunshine that I wasn’t able to fully engage in the game of sweep up slush with a pine branch.

But at last everyone was soaked and cold, and we came back inside.

“At last,” I thought, “safety!”

I got the kids a snack, got them into warm, clean clothes, and tossed all of the wet stuff into the dryer. I started to relax.

And this, dear friends, is why you do NOT want me to be part of your personal security detail.

I completely relaxed, and was moving around the house singing songs. The kids were painting. All was well. We were so so safe.

Safer than safe. No danger lurked! None!

Then I noticed that our puppy, “if it’s on the floor I should chew it” Bentley, was happily munching away on something.

Something pink. Something very, very pink.

Holy horrendous! It was PRINCESS POPPY!!!! At least, it was her head. I wasn’t sure where her body was.

I jumped up, grabbed the slobbery pink plastic head from Bentley’s mouth, and tried to be calm. I checked the kids. They hadn’t noticed that assault. I examined poor Poppy and saw that one ear had been chomped off and her entire head was full of tooth marks. I quickly scanned the floor, and found the missing ear.

“Whatcha doing?” Ellie asked.

“Um. Fixing Poppy. She needs her ear glued on.”

“OK.”

I found the superglue in our junk drawer, and squeezed a few tiny drops on Poppy’s mangled ear. I placed the ear against the chomped pink head, but both sides were so smooshed that I couldn’t get a good fit. I moved things around, but…..

You guessed it.

Within 15 seconds, Poppy’s stringy pink hair had glued itself to my right palm. Her tiny, lumpy pink ear was stuck to my left thumb.

I was glued to Princess Poppy’s chewed off body parts.

Yeah. Didn’t see that one coming……

I shook both hands, realized that the superglue had done it’s job and was permanent. I was sure that I’d go to my death with tiny chewed up globs of pink plastic attached to my body.

Fighting off panic I raced to my bathroom to hunt down a bottle of nail polish remover, which I was pretty sure was the only known antidote to gluing oneself to an inanimate object.

The kids followed me, of course.

I used the hand with the head on it to open my cabinets and the one with the ear to dig around. It took a few minutes, but I finally found an old bottle of polish remover with a little left. I poured it over my gluey-Poppy-attached hands and wrenched off the Princess’ key parts.

A fair amount of my skin came with them, but at least I wouldn’t go through life looking like I was growing the world’s most bizarre tumors.

As I rinsed my hands and left the bathroom, I saw that the two kids were waiting for me on my bed. I dried my hands, and tried to look calm.

“Nonni,” Ellie asked apropos of absolutely nothing, “How do ducks walk?”

“Duck,” echoed little John.

I was happy to see that they were undamaged by my dangerous encounter with Poppy’s head.

I smiled in relief. “Like this!” I said happily. I splayed out my feet, put my hands behind my back and started to waddle.

The kids giggled and started to copy me. Johnny was quacking with joy, and Ellie was laughing as she started to waddle across the bedroom, her hands held behind her back.

Before I even noticed the danger, Ellie tripped over the big butt of our very own Poppy-eating puppy and face planted on the floor.

Blood flowed, Ellie shrieked, Bentley started barking, and Johnny ran down the hall to find an ice pack.

Ten minutes later, my hands were still stinging from the nail polish remover. Ellie was sobbing in my lap, her upper lip turning blue and jutting out like a…..welp. Like a duck. Johnny was moving back and forth from the freezer to my chair, bringing fresh ice packs. Every now and then he’d say, “Duck” and shake his head.

Bentley was lying on the floor at our feet, showing the “I-am-so-sorry” guilt look that only a basset hound can fully perfect.

And I was thinking this:

” Yeah. I was terrified of the freakin’ breeze, but I never even thought about being attacked by Princess Poppy’s severed head.”

You do NOT want me as your body guard. Nope. Even I don’t want me watching out for me, if you know what I mean.

Happy Birthday to Me


Today is my birthday.

Sixty three very short years ago, my wiggly little self made her way into this joyful world.

Today is my birthday.

For the first time in 33 years, I am not spending the day with my children. I think that’s a big step, and a sign of growth on my part.

As always, my kids reached out and asked, “Are we having a party or something for Mom this year?”

And I said, “Nah.”

Instead, do you know what I did to make the momentous occasion of my birth?

I went to see my Mom.

I mean, really now folks, what is more appropriate for celebrating your life than going to visit the woman who carried you around for nine months of life sucking, back aching, sleep stealing pregnancy? What’s more important than thanking the woman who spent hours of pain, more pain, wicked bad pain in order to push you out into the bright lights of your new world?

My Mom is 88 years old now. Her memory is not what we all wish it would be. She is frail in ways that shock me every week when I see her.

But she’s still Mom. She’s the woman who gave me her DNA, her time, her love of reading, her sense of humor, her temper, her recipe for red sauce and meatballs.

Mom was surprised when I arrived today with a bouquet of tulips. She’d forgotten that today was my birthday. But when I showed her the green/blue cake that her great grandchildren had made for me yesterday, she laughed. It only took a little bit of prompting to get her to retell the story of my birth, which she remembered in every detail.

She was embarrassed that she didn’t have a card for me. I hugged her, gently, and told her “You gave me life, Momma. You’re off the hook for a card!”

I don’t know if she really understands or accepts the fact that I don’t need a card of little gift from her. I hope that she does. I hope that she understand and realizes that with every trip around the sun, I am eternally grateful for the fact of her.

“Without you,” I said today, “I wouldn’t have a birthday, now would I?”

She looked at me and smiled, her familiar mischievous smile. “Dad and I did a really good job with you, didn’t we? You turned out OK.”

Happy Birthday to me.

Thanks, Mom.

Mom with her first great grandchild, my sweet Ellie.

Jeez, winter, yer killin’ me


Ya know what?

I do NOT want to hear about what a mild winter this has been. Don’t want to hear about how little snow there’s been, or how easy we’ve had it here in New England.

From where I sit, any winter is a rough winter. Any winter is way the hell too long.

Today, a mere two weeks before the vernal equinox, I found myself getting desperate.

First of all, we have more snow on the ground right now than we’ve had all winter. That snow is dry, brittle, and piled on top of a boatload of ice. Second, it was 18 degrees at noon.

Finally, the kids and I have been sick for three weeks. Colds, coughs, fevers, strep, drooling, gooping, snots…….you get it. And the kids are on antibiotics, which means lots of diarrhea and not much appetite.

When the kids asked to watch yet another episode of “My Little Pony” this morning, I realized that I was on my very last nerve.

I had to make it stop. I had to shut off the infernal idiot machine (its amazing how seductive Netflix can be when everyone is sick and its snowing outside.). I had to find a way to distract the kids.

“Want to bake some cookies?” I chirped.

“Nooooooo.”

“Want to make some pretty egg carton flowers? We can paint and use glitter glue and……”

“No. No. No.”

I was desperate. I looked out the window, watching the wind blow drifts of freezing snow across the yard. No shoving kids into snowsuits, wresting mittens onto hands, zipping jackets and then playing outside for twelve seconds before everyone freezes.

What could I do?

At the time, the thought that went through my head seemed like pure genius. Pure. Freakin’. Nonni. Gold.

“Hey!” I called to the two kids. It took a couple of shouts to get their attention, since they were busy trying to push each other off the mini-tramp in the living room.

“Since we can’t go outside, how about if I bring in some snow?”

Four big brown eyes lit up with pleasure. Two little bodies hopped up and raced to the window.

“I’ll go outside,” I told them, “And I’ll bring in a big pan of nice clean snow!!!”

“Bring in two pans,” said Ellie, more astute than her grandmother. “Then Johnny won’t have to try to share.”

So out I went. I easily scooped a big pile of clean white snow into a pan and brought it inside. I divided it into two smaller pans, handed out spoons, bowls and paper towels.

“Genius!” I thought to myself. Look up “self-satisfied old lady” in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of me.

I made myself a cup of coffee while the kids played at the dining room table.

“Hey, Nonni!”

I lifted my head, smiling at Ellie’s excited voice.

“Let’s use our food coloring on the snow!!!!!”

Before I go on, let me explain.

I’m tired. My back hurts. I think I gritted my teeth too much last night, because my jaw is really aching.

I’m old. My tummy hurts from my anti-biotic. And from the 10 pounds of incredibly delicious German chocolate that my friends from Berlin sent me for my birthday.

And Ellie has been wicked, wicked cranky for the past few days.

So I did something stupid and inexplicable.

I said, “Sure!”

Then I handed out an entire brand new package of food coloring to two toddlers with a pile of snow on my dining room table.

Yeah.

Let me just say that the kids had a lot of fun. They loved watching the colors mix into the ice crystals. We even had some high quality science conversation. Ellie figured out that both warmth and “pressing” can cause snow to melt into water.

Woohooo.

Johnny seems to have learned the colors blue, green and red. Way ahead of schedule. Brilliant boy!

Of course, by the time all was said and done, my dining room table, my floor, two chairs, two toddler shirts and pairs of pants, five sponges and my entire kitchen sink were all dyed a glorious shade of….blackish purply greenish gray.

“Green, Red, Blue and Yellow make…..black!”

I spent a LOT of time and way too many paper towels getting it all cleaned up, but you know what?

It was actually worth it.

The kids learned a lot. They shared and talked and learned some new and exciting concepts.

Way more importantly, though, Nonni had an entire cup of hot coffee and two pieces of toast without a single interruption or shared bite.

So I guess it was a win.

But if spring doesn’t get here soon, I have no idea how I’m going to beat today’s adventure.

My Small World


Do you remember when you were in high school? Your entire world consisted of your friends, your classes, your teachers and coaches and maybe, on the outer edge, your parents and siblings.

Everything that occupied your soul and your heart and your mind was contained within the smallest circle around you. You only thought about the people you came in contact with ever day.

In a way, that was a wonderful life. Relationships seemed so deep, perhaps because they were so few.

I know that when I was in high school I thought of myself as very worldly and aware. I read National Geographic every month. I sort of followed the news, because my parents did. I knew who was running for which public office.

But I never stayed awake at night worrying about the Middle East, or the Irish troubles or the cold war.

Nope. I stayed awake at night worrying about if he liked me or if he “LIKED ME” liked me. I worried about who was mad at whom, who was heartbroken this week, who made which team and what I should wear on any given day.

My world was small.

Then I grew up. I went to college and had a career. I had a family and a life in a community. My world expanded so much that I sometimes felt overwhelmed. How to balance the work relationships, the community relationships, the hockey mom connections, the girl scout friends, the family and neighbors….During those busy and crazy years of raising kids, I was also involved in local town politics, and to some extent in state and federal politics, too.

I read a lot. I listened to the news and watched the news and debated the various political points and positions with all of the bright and engaged people in my life at the time.

I learned every day, too. I learned from my colleagues in school, from the mentors I had in education, and from the parents and kids I interacted with every day.

I learned, I grew, I felt myself to be a part of a wide, interesting, challenging world.

My world was big. It knew no limits.

So you can see why I am struggling a little bit now, in my Nonni years. Now my world has shrunk so much that sometimes I wonder if there is a greater universe out there at all.

Now I find that my life, so much like the one I lead back in my teens, is composed uniquely of the people I love and interact with every single day. I don’t really follow local politics anymore, to my shame. I try to read and watch and listen to the political news from my state and from this country.

I’ve always been a follower of international relations, so I do my best to keep up with latest Brexit development.

But the truth is, when I lay myself down to sleep at night, my thoughts now are limited to questions of which toddler will like which art project. I worry about finding nutritious snacks that will pack in some extra calories.

I sometimes wake up at 3 AM thinking about Princess Poppy from Trolls.

My world has closed right in around me.

There are weeks when I honestly don’t leave my property from Monday through Saturday.

And this is where I struggle.

Is it bad that I don’t mind settling in quietly to my small, enclosed, circumscribed life? Am I being a coward when I simply stay in the house with the kids and make soup?

I miss being a part of a team. I miss the ongoing intellectual challenges that I knew as a teacher, and before that as an interpreter. I miss getting to each Friday feeling as if I’ve learned something that I didn’t know on Monday.

But I love shaking off the stress and fear and angst of trying to keep up with all of the needs of those around me. I love huddling in my safe little cocoon of babies and finger paints and preschool art projects.

What I worry about is this:

Am I closing myself off too much? How do I continue to grow and learn and stretch and challenge my mind when my days are filled with rocking and singing to my best beloved little ones?

How do I balance the big old world with my safe and happy little one?

This is my whole world.

“Oh, What is to Become of Me?”


I’m a mess.

I’m an old, cranky, Nonni of a mess.

I don’t seem to know what in the world I want anymore. Nothing satisfies me. Nothing much makes me say, “Hooray”.

OK. Except maybe the incredible blood orange cosmo that my dear friend Patty brought me on Friday. That made me say lots of happy words.

But the older I get, the more I seem to be turning into a toddler.

Let me explain it this way.

You know when a toddler demands that you give them a waffle with butter and syrup. So you make said waffle, put on said butter, smoosh on said syrup and present it. The toddler immediately screams, throws themself to the floor and yells “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Well. Yeah. That’s how I feel.

I had a very busy week with my best beloveds. They were both sick and I spent a lot of time making soup, urging them to eat soup, cleaning up the mess of the soup. We watched more episodes of “My Little Pony” than anyone should have to endure. I rocked, I soothed, I brought them to the doctor.

The house smelled of Vicks. I smelled of snot and drool.

I got to the weekend feeling pretty tired.

And it was a busy couple of days, too. Taxes were due, groceries were needed, laundry was piling up.

This meant, of course, than I spent most of Sunday chanting the international call of the teacher, “Snowdaysnowdaysnowdaysnowday.” I checked the “snowday calculator” every 15 minutes. I prayed for snow, even though I really hate snow.

I pictured myself spending a lovely, quiet Monday. At home with just the dogs. Reading. Eating a healthy salad while listening to classical music….

And the snow day was granted by the universe! I was elated!

From 9 to 11, I was just delighted.

Then I realized that I was eating chips out of the bag while sprawled in the recliner in my flannel pants. I was watching “PitBulls and Parolees”. I got up in disgust and made myself vacuum and dust. I went into the attic to put away the Valentine’s tchotchkes and take out the ceramic bunnies and eggs. I semi-decorated. I paid the bills.

It was noon.

I shoveled some snow. I checked Facebook and Twitter. I ate M&Ms.

More “PitBulls and Parolees”. I felt bloated. Bored. Stupid.

Now it’s almost dinner time.

I’m making a cheater’s pizza. You know, where you slice a loaf of garlic bread in half and slop on some toppings.

I tell ya.

There’s just no pleasing this old toddler of a granny.

I can’t wait for the kids to get here in the morning so I can make pancakes that no one will eat, get fingerpaint all over the walls, blow toddler noses 342 times, and then complain about how tired I am.

Do you feel bad for me yet?

“You know you missed us. Ellie will be a pitbull, and I’ll be a parolee.”

“She Who Sleeps With Dogs…..”


It took a long time for my husband and I to get a dog. When we first married, we had cats.

After that, we had kids.

Really, really allergic kids.

So a bunch of years went by with no furry little pals.

But then the kids got older, were able to manage their own inhalers and nose sprays, and we finally broke down and got a big old dog. We loved him with our whole hearts……but we never let him on the bed.

Sure, you let me on the couch, but what about the bed?

After a while, we got another dog. Still no bed snuggles.

And all was well.

Until both of our beloved old pups moved across that famous rainbow bridge and all three kids had the audacity to grow up.

At that point, the only one who begged to hug us at bedtime was our puppy, Lennie. Paul tried to be strong, and to hold onto his “no dogs on the bed” rule, but I was weak.

I mean, picture this. It’s a cold winter night, and you’re in your jammies, snuggled under your warm, soft blankies. You pick up your book, but you are suddenly distracted by a soft whine. You look to your left, and you are met with the big brown begging eyes of your puppy. He holds your gaze for a second, then he shivers dramatically, from the tip of his wet black nose to the end of his whippy golden tail.

Can you really say no to this face???

Come. On.

You have no choice.

No. Choice.

You pull back the blanket and make the international “come-here-doggy” kissy noise. Your sweet pup jumps up on the bed, licks your cheek and gives a deep, heart felt sigh. He falls asleep against your ribs, reminding you of your babies in ways that make you melt.

And there you are.

Suddenly you find yourself a co-sleeper with a mutt. Even though you are a happily married woman.

Cognitively, you know that this is ridiculous. There could be dirt. Fur. Ticks and deadly diseases.

But he’s so soft.

Time goes by, and that pup stays put every damn night. In fact, he starts to feel like he’s in control of who gets to use the pillow.

But it’s OK.

Mostly.

And then, for reasons that escape you now, reasons that seem to be tied to “save the poor little abandoned baby” and “wouldn’t your little Lennie love to have a playmate?”, you find yourself the happy Mommy of a whole new puppy.

A floppy, squishy, slinky black oil slick of a basset hound/lab mix. A happy bundle of love who instinctively understands that he is supposed to sleep right under your arm, with his long nose resting on your face.

Sigh.

Months go by. Months in which you question your sanity. Months in which sleep eludes you because there’s a dog butt on your left ankle and a dog head on your throat.

At last, though, the universe shows you that your current sleep situation has an important use after all.

You go to Florida with your sister and in spite of your best efforts, you burn to a crisp. You come home peeling like a banana. Molting like a snake. You leave shreds of crispy epidermis behind you wherever you go.

And. You. Itch.

No matter how much Aveeno, Cocoa Butter, Gold Bond, Vaseline you smooth onto your skin, you itch all night long.

And that’s when you finally discover the gift that you’ve been given by sleeping with two big dogs.

It happened to me last night. We’d been out for most of the day and well into the night. We finally got home after midnight, and the dogs were filled with the need to cuddle right up against us.

So I fell asleep with my big soft basset boy curled into my back. And I woke up thirty minutes later with every millimeter of my back itching. I started to reach back to scratch what I could reach, but then I realized that Bentley’s long sharp claws were resting against my back.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered. Then I proceeded to wiggle, wriggle and slither along those claws, finding the relief that has escaped me for the past week.

An hour later, I woke up again, itching all over my back. And again, Bentley’s perfect scratching post claws were right there. I wiggled and wriggled some more, while Bentley simply snored.

This went on all night.

I itched, I wriggled, he scratched. It was the most heavenly relief.

So you see?

She who lies down with dogs might wake up with fleas, but at least she’ll get some relief from the desire to peel off all of her own skin.

I knew I was doing the right thing when I invited Lennie under the covers!

The Gullible Consumer


This post is a PSA.

Dear Nonni/Grammy/Momma/Grampa/Daddy/Special Friend:

Do NOT fall into the trap that has ensnared this reckless Nonni. Do NOT believe the crap that you read on line about the latest cool toys.

Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT fall prey to the late night TV spots with the glow in the dark cars and awesome flexible tracks.

Be strong, oh dear caregivers of young children. Be vigilant. Be wary. Be resolute.

Cuz I sure as hell wasn’t.

Let me share with you the sad and mournful tale of Nonni’s Kinetic Sand.

This stuff looks like magic when you view it online. Especially if you view it on a weekend when the kids aren’t here and the wine may or may not have been flowing.

Kinetic sand is “the original squeezable sand that you can’t put down!” It can be sparkly. It can glow in the dark. It is easy to use, easy to shape. It oozes. It flows through fingers. It keeps its shape. It leaves hands “completely dry!”

Wahoo!!!

What a wonderful discovery! With this one purchase, Nonni could help the kids explore a variety of textures, shapes and movement! She could be an aging STEM expert!

Why NOT order a bag of this wonderful stuff?

So, of course, you are not at all surprised. Nonni ordered a big ol’ bag of said kinetic sand.

Oh, hahahahaha! Nonni, you gullible old fool!

Today found Nonni in the cranky presence of three toddlers. Two were dealing with colds and low grade fevers. One was wondering how in hell she ended up here with the cranksters.

Nothing was pleasing anyone.

So Nonni, bless her delusional old heart, decided to pull out the big plastic box of kinetic sand.

The three toddlers we delighted. They sat around the table, tiny toy animals in hand, little spoons at the ready. The sand was divided up among the three of them, into three matching trays.

“This is so messy!!!”

This ain’t Nonni’s first rodeo.

Everyone got the exact same seashell. And the exact same tiny plastic asand molds.

The three of them were encouraged to share the water bottle.

All was well.

In fact, all was kind of dangerously, suspiciously quiet. I kept peeking in at them, but nothing obvious jumped out at me.

I sat down and paid my bills.

I was an idiot.

When I came back into the dining room, the kids were wrapping up their play. Good little ones that they are, they were putting the tiny pterodactyls into the box. They were hopping off of their chairs and heading into the bathroom.

“Good job!” Nonni called out cheerfully, thinking of how responsible the kids were being.

We have sand in places we can’t even name!

Off they toddled to the bathroom.

I went to clean up the sand.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

And holy fuck.

How could one bag of kinetic sand get all over the table and every single chair like that? How could it have spread itself into each tiny crevasse in the coffee table?

Was that….was that KINETIC SAND spread on the wall?

Gulp.

I started to sweep, wipe and vacuum. But then the kids called for help. So into the bathroom I went, tucking my sandy dishcloth into my apron pocket.

“Nonni, my hands are kind of dirty,” said beloved child number one. “And I have something in my eye,” said beloved child number two. “Dubdadubda” said the baby.

And holy sacred sands of eternity. There was kinetic sand stuck to Ellie’s sleeves. I pulled her sweater off. This of course dislodged clumps of kinetic sand into her curly “do not dream of combing me” hair.

I turned to Ella, our calm and sweet model child. “There’s something in my eye.” she said with her usual serene demeanor. And I looked. Yep. Kinetic sand stuck in her eyelashes, clumped into her lower lids.

And kinetic sand in Johnny’s sleeves, and somehow or other in both ears.

I was horrified. I was aghast. I was awash in guilt.

Who was the idiot who actually bought this crap??????

Yep. That would be me.

So.

I spent an hour combing hair, washing out eyeballs, sweeping sand off of legs, arms, feet, hands. I swept the floor, vacuumed the chairs and stairs, washed the toys the trays the cups and spoons.

I swept. I rinsed. I scrubbed.

And all the while, under my breath, I muttered this solemn incantation:

“Whoever invented kinetic sand should be buried alive in seventeen tons of it. With a plastic pterodactyl for company.”

New Friends


So you probably know that I’ve been on vacation with my younger sister. We just spent a week in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

It was perfect.

I know, I know. Gag me and all that.

But seriously. It was about 80 degrees and perfectly sunny EVERY DAY. We ate fresh seafood. We walked on the beach every morning. We collected (I am not kidding) about 600 perfect seashells. We swam and floated and splashed in the Gulf of Mexico for hours.

And one of the best parts for me was meeting so many friendly and welcoming people. I met some new people, unknown to either my sister or myself. They were interesting, funny, and fun to talk with.

I also had the pleasure of meeting some people that my sister has known for decades. That was very cool, because at long last I had faces to match to so many of her stories. And I was instantly welcomed into the “family” of her long time buddies.

So special. Such a blessing.

And I mean that. Really and truly! My circle has grown this week, and that is always a wonderful development.

But you know what?

The best interaction that I had all week was with a bird.

We were walking along the shore one evening, gathering shells and watching the sun set. We came to a wooden pier, stretching into the gulf.

As we looked out toward the setting sun, I noticed a beautiful egret fishing on the rocks.

Perfection. Fishing on the rocks along the Gulf of Mexico.

I walked toward her, snapping picture after picture to capture her perfect white feathers in the light of the setting sun.

And then I noticed, further along, a beautiful heron. A great blue heron, standing on the railing of the pier. He was scanning the water below him, just as intent on catching his dinner as the egret was.

I slowly walked toward him, fully expecting him to take flight when I got too close.

But to my amazement, instead of flying off, he turned his head to watch my approach.

“Approach. But do it carefully.”

He was absolutely calm, watching me with his bright yellow eyes. As I held up my phone and started to take pictures, I swear that he lifted his head and posed.

He was regal. He was the one in charge.

He seemed, in a strange way, to be watching me as closely as I was watching him.

I could hardly breathe. I have never been so close to a heron! I have never been so close to a large bird.

He was gorgeous.

I kept moving forward, my phone help up in front of my eye.

The heron watched, but never gave the slightest sign of unease. His feet stayed steady on the post beneath him. His feathers were smooth, gray, supremely unruffled.

I took one picture after another.

Slowly, I moved past my royal subject. Now the sun’s setting light held him in perfect glowing relief. I took several more shots, unable to believe my luck.

And I’m not kidding. He turned his head, showing himself in perfect profile.

“Be sure to capture my best side.”

It was starting to feel a little bit surreal, standing so close to such an amazing bird, watching him in all of his elegant glory. Watching him as he watched me.

Finally I had taken as many photos as I thought I might need. I put my phone in my pocket.

For some reason that I don’t fully understand, I placed my right hand on my chest, and gave a tiny bow.

‘Thank you, sir,” I said.

And you know what he did?

I’m not kidding.

He dipped that magnificent head toward me, acknowledging my thanks and recognizing his own superiority.

I will forever be in awe of that moment.